Dozens still missing after South African building collapse; 7 confirmed dead – Metro US

Dozens still missing after South African building collapse; 7 confirmed dead

South Africa Building Collapse
Rescue workers search the site of a building collapse in George, South Africa, Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Nearly 40 construction workers were still missing Wednesday in the rubble of a building that collapsed in South Africa on Monday as rescue teams continued to search for survivors for a third day in the wreckage of the unfinished five-story apartment complex. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

GEORGE, South Africa (AP) — Rescue teams used underground cameras and sniffer dogs Wednesday to search for nearly 40 construction workers still missing in rubble two days after the collapse of an apartment building under construction in coastal South Africa.

Seven workers have been confirmed dead, while 16 of the 29 people rescued from the debris were in critical condition in hospitals and an additional six had life-threatening injuries, authorities said. They said 39 workers were still unaccounted for and buried in the rubble of concrete and mangled metal scaffolding.

The unfinished five-story apartment complex collapsed Monday in George, a city on South Africa’s south coast around 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Cape Town. It sparked a desperate rescue effort that has drawn disaster response teams from other towns and cities. A total of 75 construction workers were at the building site when it came down, the George municipality said.

More than 200 rescue personnel continued to search for survivors. Cranes and other heavy lifting equipment were brought in to lift some of the huge concrete slabs that came crashing down on workers, while rescuers formed lines to remove the smaller rubble by hand.

Rescuers said some of the survivors had used their cell phones while trapped under the debris to contact family members and that had helped emergency responders find them.

There were cheers and applause when some survivors were brought out Tuesday night.

Colin Deiner, the head of the rescue effort, said it was a “very successful night” but there was less progress Wednesday. Rescuers had been speaking with those survivors through the rubble before bringing them out, but they were not hearing anything from beneath the debris anymore, Deiner said.

The operation was now moving into a new phase, where rescuers would rely more on heavy equipment to lift concrete so they could get access to deeper areas in the hope there were more survivors in voids — gaps in the collapsed debris.

“We will remain in rescue mode,” Deiner said. “Our crew is working in difficult conditions and work will continue in various areas we can get access to. Large equipment will be brought in.”

The George municipality continued to call for donations of water, energy drinks and food for the rescue personnel, who had been working in shifts for more than 48 hours. The provincial Western Cape government has sent emergency response teams from Cape Town and other cities to help with a rescue effort that officials said would likely last at least until Friday.

George is a city of around 150,000 people on South Africa’s picturesque coastal Garden Route and is more renowned as a vacation and golfing destination.

Authorities have announced multiple investigations into the cause of the building collapse, including by police, the provincial government and the national department of labor.

“There will be consequences,” said Anton Bredell, the Provincial Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning.

Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa